Being a good manager in 10 key steps

Master’s degree in management, seminars, certification courses… Managing a team is a discipline in itself, even an art. If you are preparing to take on this important responsibility, certain fundamentals will help you motivate your teams, make your mark in a benevolent manner and ultimately gain legitimacy. Regardless of the size of your team and your industry, save yourself some time and a few rookie mistakes by implementing these 10 key guidelines for becoming a good manager.

1. Do not try to control everything

Your manager’s hat comes with new responsibilities. Among them, you will be expected to keep an eye on your team’s work, but beware: you will have to resist the temptation of controlling them. Luc Bretones, CEO of NexGen and Welcome to the Jungle Lab expert, states: “Today’s manager must change their attitude by moving from an overbearing posture to one of support. He or she must care, facilitate the daily life of his or her subordinates and, above all, encourage the emergence of collective intelligence, which is much more powerful than the sum of the individuals who make it up. In doing so, he or she develops the team’s autonomy and capacity to co-construct, to bring out new solutions.” 

The secret? Learn to delegate and trust one another. “It is essential, from this point of view, for everyone to be able to express themselves in an even-handed way, whether they are loud or quiet, for example”, notes Luc Bretones. “The good manager must be able to mediate when necessary and link the purpose of the organization to the team itself. He/she must also ensure that the team focuses on its raison d’être rather than on peripheral projects…”

2. Giving "supervised" freedom to everyone

As soon as you take up your position, set the right rules explicitly. Clearly state your objectives and what you expect from everyone: this is an excellent way to assert yourself and reassure your team. “Being precise about the framework allows the energies and potential of each person to be released. Determining the perimeters of action is essential to encourage creativity”, affirms Luc Bretones. “I also suggest adopting management by roles rather than by job descriptions. The principle of a role is that it gives the person full autonomy, which goes hand in hand with the trust that is given to him or her”, Luc Bretones adds. And don’t forget: a manager who can’t reframe is perceived as weak by his team. Conversely, reframing at every turn does not make you a good manager… The ideal? Be balanced and constantly adjust the cursor.

3. Cultivate transparency

“Cultivating transparency means giving as much information as possible to the person you are managing so that he or she has all the tools at hand”, Luc Bretones explains. “Historically, power was correlated with the level of access to information. Today, with the Internet, those who want to know more can do so without any difficulty. So governing by withholding is outdated!” It is also essential to give constructive feedback to your employees. “We avoid the annual meeting, which is a museum piece,” smiles

"Feedback must be continuous and the feedback must be as frequent as possible, so that we always know what can be improved.”

To provide constructive feedback, you can follow these three steps:

  1. First, positive feedback on behavior. Highlight your employee’s strengths!
  2. Then, more negative feedback. Clearly express the possible points of improvement. This step is the most delicate, but without it, there will be no self-questioning and therefore no development. Avoid a direct style, which can be off-putting.
  3. End with positive feedback. Whatever the mistakes, the person is thus recognized in his or her first quality: himself or herself.

4. Learn to say no

Your title as manager brings with it an increased workload. Your first challenge? Proving that you’re up to your new responsibilities. But in order to take on all your tasks, you need to set limits.

  • Do not say yes to every request.
  • Only take on files with high added value and delegate the others (in other words: prioritize).
  • To manage the continuous flow of emails, choose time slots to consult them and in the meantime, turn off the notifications.
  • Don’t overload your agenda and leave yourself time to concentrate on the core issues: strategy, vision, team organization.

“There is also the question of managerial courage or the ability to be authentic,” notes Luc Bretones. “To be a good manager, you have to look at things as they are and remain benevolent in all circumstances, but without becoming complacent. Too many managers avoid problems and don’t act early enough. You have to be able to find solutions collectively and implement them as they come along.” 

5. Promote team cohesion

Never lose sight of the fact that you are one team. The more you strengthen the sense of belonging, the more successful and operational your team will be. So make time for each of your employees.

How to create the dream team effect:

  • have meetings of course, but not too many: repeated meetings are sometimes counterproductive;
  • share your vision, be transparent;
  • celebrate individual and collective achievements outside the company;
  • Value your team in front of the hierarchy and your counterparts.

6. Balance formal and informal occasions

Your new position as a manager demands a duty of discretion. Some information does not concern the team, but rather strategic decisions that you must keep to yourself. Under no circumstances should you criticize your hierarchy in front of your team! Even if certain moments are dedicated to relaxation and more informal conversations, being a good manager obliges you to keep a certain distance; it is a guarantee of your legitimacy. That said, “establishing rituals is essential because they are effective and help creativity and conviviality to emerge”, points out Luc Bretones. “The manager is the conductor of these collective activities. He or she must know how to organize these times, which often prove to be more constructive than long meetings.”

7. Listen to your employees

Get to know all your collaborators by knowing how to listen. This will help you better understand the people under your wing: their abilities, their differences, their strengths and their weaknesses. It is through listening that you will create a powerful and positive synergy. By knowing each other’s strengths, you will be able to delegate more easily and with confidence to the right person. This openness will also help you in the day-to-day tasks that are the responsibility of a good manager: the distribution of vacations, evaluations, decisions on this or that training… Taking the time to listen and to exchange also means progressing and creating a solid and efficient team.

8. Leading by example

Say what you do and do what you say… You must apply to yourself all the principles you demand of others. This is a prerequisite for inspiring respect and being considered a “model”. It is also the way to assert yourself as a consistent and fair leader in your decisions: a reassuring “anti-stress” effect for your employees. “This is called leading by example, or walk the talk”, says Luc Bretones. 

"You have to be *aligned* with your speech. When I intervene in companies as a management consultant, I always focus on management first: if things don't go up, they can't be integrated down. You always have to lead by example and implement what you say."

9. Never micro-manage

Micro-management is an attitude that can be observed when a manager is constantly trying to control the actions of his employees, putting more and more pressure on their shoulders and voluntarily or involuntarily creating situations of tension. “It’s about telling a smart person what their goals are and how to achieve them in minute detail”, clarifies Luc Bretones. “It’s unbearable, because you have to leave it up to individuals to decide for themselves how they’re going to get from where they are to where they want to be.” According to him, the risk of tipping over into harassment, in this case, is not negligible. “That’s the poison of organizations. What you have to do is clearly explain what is expected, listen if the person needs help, but leave them in charge of their role, because they are the most competent to do it, having been specifically recruited for that. You have to keep in mind that a good manager is a support, but he or she should never give the details of what to do to the person he or she is managing.”

10. Implement the right to make mistakes

“Here is another stigma associated with companies where life is not good: a non-existent right to make mistakes”, alerts Luc Bretones. “Research has shown that people do not make mistakes for the sake of making them. What we need to do is look at missteps as sources of progress, not as sources of tension.” Creating the right to make mistakes therefore means creating psychological security for your team, which is absolutely necessary if you want to surround yourself with proactive individuals. “To be creative and inventive, you have to be relaxed. The right side of the brain is only activated when people are not stressed. A good manager who reassures his teams and gives them time to improve is also a leader who helps them to grow, to improve, to want to do better. This is an essential point of modern management!”

Beyond all these tips, the most important thing is to give meaning to your job on a daily basis. You have one and the same goal: to give impetus to a dynamic between several individuals and to make a team a coherent whole evolving in a benevolent framework. You are not born a good manager, you become one. Learn the art of the balancing act, a subtle balance between authority and flexibility, where it is a question of obtaining without imposing, of listening and being able to make decisions. And don’t forget that you won’t please everyone… So don’t take everything too much to heart, except, of course, this new position of manager which promises exciting and rewarding projects.

French source: Article edited by Ariane Picoche, photo: @SeeConcept for WTTJ